The Oklahoma State men’s basketball program is in an interesting spot in 2019.
Even with what looks like a promising team in the present, Cowboy fans are understandably looking ahead to 2020-21. With the current #2 recruit in the class of 2020: Cade Cunningham committed to join the program, you can understand the excitement.
9 games in, its been a tale of 2 seasons for the Cowboys: the first 7 games with Isaac Likekele and the last 2 without Likekele.
Cougar fans may be familiar with Likekele, a sophomore guard from Arlington, from his team-high 16-point performance in Stillwater the last time these 2 teams faced off. To date, he is tied for the Cowboy team-lead in scoring (13.7 pts/game) with Lindy Waters III as well as leading the team in assists and steals.
With Likekele, the Cowboys are 7-0 with top 100 KenPom wins over: Syracuse, Ole Miss and Yale.
Without Likekele they’re 0-2 to Georgetown and Wichita State. Those 2 teams are the highest rated on the OSU schedule, which may have as much to do with the outcome as missing their starting point guard. Regardless, it appears Likekele will likely be out against the Cougars. OSU is doing their best to be noncommittal and he did travel to Houston with the team.
In the place of Likekele, freshman Chris Harris Jr. has moved into the lineup and its kind of been point guard by committee since then.
Lindy Waters III is a senior and Cowboy fan favorite who as I mentioned earlier is tied with Likekele for the team-lead in scoring. Waters is more of a spot-up shooter and is making a team-best 38.9% of his 3-pointers.
Sophomore big man Yor Anei has improved an unbelievable amount in a year’s time, becoming one of the country’s top shot blockers (2.9 blocks/game) and is averaging 11.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in only 21 minutes per game. Like a lot of young big men, figuring out how to play without getting in foul trouble is a challenge for Anei.
Seniors Thomas Dziagwa and Cameron McGriff should start Sunday against the Coogs. Dziagwa is a spot-up shooter and kind of a ‘store brand’ Lindy Waters III and McGriff leads the team in rebounding as their starting power forward.
The Cowboys have generally used a 10-man rotation, although none of their bench regulars have more than 3.9 points per game. Twin freshmen brothers Kalib and Kaleb Boone will see action along with fellow first-year Avery Anderson III.
For a school with an impressive basketball history, I’ve been impressed how patient OSU has been with head coach Mike Boynton. The 3rd year coach took over following his former boss Brad Underwood making a surprise departure for Illinois after 1 year at OSU.
In Boynton’s 1st year the team overachieved modest preseason expectations and made an appearance in the NIT. With many players leaving/getting kicked off the team early last season the Cowboys dropped to 9th place finish in Big 12 play last year, but got key players like Anei and Likekele valuable experience they might have otherwise not gotten.
As a team, the Cowboys will play at a significantly above average tempo as they’re 55th nationally in Adjusted Tempo and 6 of their 9 games have had at least 71 combined possessions. For comparison, UH hasn’t reached that number of possessions since the HBU game.
The Cowboys’ defensive metrics are great, even with the last 2 games, 23rd in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and 22nd in Effective Field Goal %. They’ve also been excellent at blocking shots and defending the perimeter.
Like most match ups, the Cougars may have an edge on the boards where OSU has been solid but not spectacular at getting offensive boards and preventing opponents from doing the same.
This game will be the first time the Cowboys have faced a true road setting since November 13 at College of Charleston, a game the Pokes won 73-54.
This will be the Coogs’ toughest test since the loss to Oregon and even considering who OSU is missing I will be happy with any hypothetical win the Coogs could manage in this one.